All Blacks: Team excels with northern refs

By Gregor Paul

The All Blacks have won 13 of their 18 tests controlled by Jonathan Kaplan. Photo / Getty Images
The All Blacks have won 13 of their 18 tests controlled by Jonathan Kaplan. Photo / Getty Images

Statistically at least, the dominance of Northern Hemisphere referees on the 10-man World Cup panel will suit the All Blacks.

Confirmation of World Cup referees reveals there will be six from the north and four from the south.

Despite comments in the past from coach Graham Henry that he prefers the attack-friendly stance of Southern Hemisphere referees, the All Blacks have a better overall record under Northern Hemisphere officials.

New Zealand have played 25 tests under the six northern referees likely to be named tomorrow and have won 19.

The All Blacks have a 100 per cent record under two of the northern referees - Frenchman Romain Poite and England's Dave Pearson.

The national team will have been disappointed not to see Ireland's Alan Lewis on the panel, as they also have a flawless record whenever he has refereed the All Blacks.

That 76 per cent win ratio under the Northern Hemisphere referees is superior to the 72 per cent they have won under the four Southern Hemisphere referees likely to be named. They are: Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert of South Africa, Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand) and Steve Walsh (Australia).

The All Blacks can't be refereed by Lawrence and have never encountered Walsh in a test as until 2010, he was aligned with his native New Zealand.

They have played 18 tests under Kaplan, winning 13, and six under Joubert, winning five. These numbers are at odds with the perception the All Blacks would prefer to play under Southern Hemisphere referees.

Henry once said during his tenure as coach of Wales: "Southern Hemisphere referees are more attacker-friendly and in the Northern Hemisphere, they're more defensive-friendly. I sent a letter asking for a definitive statement for how international games would be refereed and received a general statement back. I prefer it to be attacker-friendly."

However, the more pressing concern for Henry and every other international coach will be the scrum engagement and the ability of referees to control that facet of the game.

The All Blacks were hammered on their end of year tour in 2010, conceding more than 20 scrummaging penalties in total; all incurred on the opposition put-in.

The heaviest toll came against England, refereed by Poite. Pearson was also harsh in his assessment of the All Blacks scrummaging a week later in Edinburgh.

So frustrated were the All Blacks by the end of the tour that assistant coach Steve Hansen even suggested the solution was for the national side not to push. Trying to be aggressive on opposition ball wasn't worth it, as it would only end with a penalty against the All Blacks

It was a damning assessment of the world's best referees and confidence in officialdom's ability to control and fairly manage scrums has dropped further in 2011 with little progress made in the Six Nations in reducing collapsed scrums.

The picture has been just as bleak during Super Rugby, where the inability of referees to handle the engagement and determine who is at fault has overshadowed a handful of games.

It's possibly unfair but the overwhelming impression is that referees around the world have resorted to guessing.

Others appear to draw conclusions early about which team may have a negative mind-set and are reluctant to be persuaded otherwise.

Most international coaches will be hoping that with the panel now decided, the pressure will come off referees and performances will improve.

The All Blacks' record under the World Cup panel

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
* Tests: 18
* Won: 13
* Lost: 5
* Win %: 77%

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
* Tests: 11
* Won: 9
* Lost: 2
* Win %: 81%

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
* Tests: 6
* Won: 5
* Lost: 1
* Win %: 83%

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
* Tests: 5
* Won: 3
* Lost: 2
* Win %: 60%

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
* Tests: 3
* Won: 2
* Lost: 1
* Win %: 67%

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
* Tests: 3
* Won: 2
* Lost: 1
* Win %: 67%

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
* Tests: 2
* Won: 2
* Lost: 0
* Win %: 100%

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
* Tests: 1
* Won: 1
* Lost: 0
* Win %: 100%

* Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand) and Steve Walsh (Australia) have not refereed the All Blacks.

- Herald on Sunday

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